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Warm hands may mean warm heart

Fri., Oct. 24, 2008

Looking to improve your romantic odds? Get your date a cup of steaming coffee.

That’s the implication of a new study from researchers who wanted to see if there was any connection between physical and emotional heat.

They found that people who held a cup of hot coffee for 10 to 25 seconds warmed up to a perfect stranger. Holding a cup of iced coffee had the opposite effect.

If you want to make a good impression, advised University of Colorado psychologist and study author Lawrence E. Williams, a cup of fresh coffee “may bias the situation in your favor.”

The study, published Friday in the journal Science, is the latest to show how physical properties such as distance or temperature can unconsciously influence emotional reactions.

“Our mental processes are not separate and detached from the body,” said John A. Bargh, a Yale University psychologist and co-author of the current study.

The study raises the potential for manipulation beyond matters of the heart. Williams said it was not hard to envision marketers using warm cookies to make connections with customers – and prime them to buy.

By the same token, Bargh said, shoppers who want to resist pushy salespeople could improve their chances by carrying an icy can of soda in their pocket.

But when it comes to personal relationships, researchers said, a hot beverage can’t always overcome awkward habits and distasteful traits.

“If I had a nice warm cup of coffee with Adolf Hitler, I’m still not going to like him,” Bargh said.

In the latest study, a lab worker asked each of 41 subjects to hold a cup of warm coffee or iced coffee. They were then asked to rate the personality of an unidentified person whom researchers described as “skillful, industrious, determined, practical and cautious.”

People who had held warm coffee gave the stranger an average score of 4.7 on a 7-point scale, warmer than the average score of 4.3 from people who had held iced coffee.


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